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November 9, 2017 4:30 pm

Arabs and Turks Welcomed the Balfour Declaration

avatar by Efraim Karsh

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The late Lord Arthur Balfour. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“One hundred years have passed since the notorious Balfour Declaration, by which Britain gave, without any right, authority or consent from anyone, the land of Palestine to another people. This paved the road for the Nakba of Palestinian people and their dispossession and displacement from their land.”

So claimed Mahmoud Abbas at last year’s UN General Assembly’s annual meeting. And such is the standard Palestinian indictment of the November 1917 British government’s pledge to facilitate “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” provided that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

It is an emotionally-gripping claim, but it is also the inverse of truth.

For one thing, Britain did consult its main war allies, notably US President Woodrow Wilson, before issuing the declaration, which was quickly endorsed by the contemporary international community, including the leaders of the nascent pan-Arab movement, and aped by the Ottoman Empire.

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For another thing, it was not the Balfour Declaration that paved the road to the Nakba, but Balfour’s rejection by the extremist Palestinian Arab leadership headed by the Jerusalem Mufti Hajj Amin Husseini — against the wishes of ordinary Palestinian Arabs, who would had rather coexisted with their Jewish neighbors and taken advantage of opportunities created by the evolving Jewish national enterprise. Had this leadership not ignored the wishes of its subjects, and the will of the international community for that matter, there would have been no Nakba.

For a detailed Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies report on how Arabs and Turks welcomed the Balfour Declaration, click here.

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